Application of remotely piloted aircraft systems in observing the atmospheric boundary layer over Antarctic sea ice in winter
The main aim of this paper is to explore the potential of combining measurements from fixed- and rotary-wing remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to complement data sets from radio soundings as well as ship and sea-ice-based instrumentation for atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) profiling. This study represents a proof-of-concept of RPAS observations in the Antarctic sea-ice zone. We present first results from the RV Polarstern Antarctic winter expedition in the Weddell Sea in June–August 2013, during which three RPAS were operated to measure temperature, humidity and wind; a fixed-wing small unmanned meteorological observer (SUMO), a fixed-wing meteorological mini-aerial vehicle, and an advanced mission and operation research quadcopter. A total of 86 RPAS flights showed a strongly varying ABL structure ranging from slightly unstable temperature stratification near the surface to conditions with strong surface-based temperature inversions. The RPAS observations supplement the regular upper air soundings and standard meteorological measurements made during the campaign. The SUMO and quadcopter temperature profiles agree very well and, excluding cases with strong temperature inversions, 70% of the variance in the difference between the SUMO and quadcopter temperature profiles can be explained by natural, temporal, temperature fluctuations. Strong temperature inversions cause the largest differences, which are induced by SUMO’s high climb rates and slow sensor response. Under such conditions, the quadcopter, with its slower climb rate and faster sensor, is very useful in obtaining accurate temperature profiles in the lowest 100 m above the sea ice.
Keywords: Remotely piloted aircraft systems; unmanned aerial vehicles; Weddell Sea; polar meteorology; Antarctic; boundary layer meteorology.
(Published: 8 October 2015)
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Citation: Polar Research 2015, 34, 25651, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v34.25651
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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Authors retain copyright of their work, with first publication rights granted to the Norwegian Polar Institute.